Teen drivers going too fast in 58 percent of crashes

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent

Speed -- the on-the-road variety -- was a factor in more than half of the teen-driver crashes in Ohio from 2006 to 2008, a new State Highway Patrol study shows. That's no surprise to anyone who lives near teen drivers and has seen them burn rubber as they pull out onto the street.

Crashes are the leading cause of death for U.S. teens, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. One teen died per hour in weekend crashes and almost one every two hours on weekdays in 2006.

While 6.3 percent of all licensed drivers are 15 to 20 years old, they made up 12.9 percent of the drivers killed in U.S. crashes in 2006, the administration found. That year, 3,490 teen drivers lost their lives in vehicle crashes.

The 2008 "Teen Driver Crashes" report to Congress concluded that teens take greater risks when they drive because of inexperience and immaturity. One of those risks is driving at high speeds. "Inexperience is one of

the biggest issues," said Mitch Wilson, vice president of public information at the Ohio Insurance Institute.

Last year's statistics bear that out: Teen drivers had the greatest risk for crashes of any Ohio age group. The institute found that drivers ages 16 to 20 had a one-in-seven chance of a crash, while drivers ages 71 to 75 had

a one-in-31 chance.

The patrol study looked at the 61,784 teen-driver crashes in Ohio between 2006 and 2008. Those crashes resulted in 212 deaths and 27,838 injuries. Teen drivers impaired by drugs or alcohol caused 784 crashes during the three-year period.

Among all the teen-driver crashes, speed was a factor in 58 percent, compared with 40 percent in adult crashes, the patrol said. Ohio had a total of 1 million crashes during that time period. "We need to remind our young drivers of the consequences of not obeying traffic laws," said Col. Richard H. Collins, the patrol's superintendent.

Patrol Sgt. Richard Reeder offered this advice to parents: "When you're traveling with your teen driver, have them drive. Then you can critique their driving and see if they're adhering to the rules."

But not all the news is grim for teen drivers. Research from the national Insurance Institute for Highway Safety showed that the number of teen deaths from vehicle crashes has been falling since 1975. That year, 8,748 teens 13 to 19 died, compared with 4,946 in 2007. The research concludes that the falling death rate among teens is the result of states requiring more experience before teens have full driving privileges.